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Mol Nutr Food Res. 2006 Dec;50(12):1150-70.

Heterocyclic amines: chemistry and health.

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Department of Botany, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, PR China.


Heterocyclic amines (HAs) occur at the ppb range in foods. Most of them demonstrate potent mutagenicity in bacteria mutagenicity test, and some of them have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as probable/possible human carcinogens. Their capability of formation even during ordinary cooking practices implies frequent exposure by the general public. Over the past 30 years, numerous studies have been stimulated aiming to alleviate human health risk associated with HAs. These studies contribute to the understanding of their formation, characterization, and quantification in foods; their mutagenesis/carcinogenesis, mechanisms of antimutagenesis by chemical or phytogenic modulators; and strategies to inhibit their formation. The chemistry of HAs, their implications in human health, factors influencing their formation, and feasible ways of suppression will be briefly reviewed. Their occurrence in trace amounts in foods necessitates continuous development and amelioration of analytical techniques. Various inhibitory strategies, ranging from modifying cooking conditions to incorporation of different modulators, have been developed. This will remain one of the foremost areas of research in the field of food chemistry and safety.

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